Military authorities probe Chief of Army Staff’s death in plane crash

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THE Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Ibrahim Attahiru, was killed in a plane crash on Friday evening with military authorities ordering a probe into the incident.

A statement on Friday night by the Acting Director, Defence Information, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, said the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, has directed that an accident and investigation board be constituted to unravel the immediate and remote cause(s) of the accident.

The Nigerian Army, equally on Friday night, confirmed the death of its chief, General Attahiru, in a statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima.

The statement reads in part: “The sad event occurred following an air crash in Kaduna which also claimed the lives of 10 other officers, including the crew.

“The COAS was en route Kaduna from Abuja on Friday, 21 May, 2021 when the unfortunate incident happened.

“Details of the sad incident and burial arrangements will be communicated soon.”

President Muhammadu Buhari expressed deep sadness over the air crash that claimed the lives of the Chief of Army Staff and other military officers.

According to a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the president condoled with families of the deceased, the military, and Nigerians in general, describing them as “heroes who paid the ultimate price for peace and security in the land.” Attahiru was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 21, 2021.

He replaced Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai (retd) after the president made a sweeping change of the service chiefs.

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) confirmed that one of its aircraft crashed in Kaduna but it did not name the casualties.

However, Saturday Tribune gathered from top military sources that Attahiru died alongside other senior army officers, some of his aides and the crew during an official trip to Kaduna on Friday evening.

A list of 11 names, supposedly of casualties of the tragedy, was trending online late Friday evening but military authorities did not officially release any name apart from Attahiru’s as of press time.

The unofficial list included General Attahiru, three Brigadier Generals, two Majors, a Sergeant and four crew members.

The Director of Public Relations and Information (NAF), Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, had said in a tweet that “an air crash involving a @NigAirForce aircraft occurred this evening near the Kaduna International Airport.

“The immediate cause of the crash is still being ascertained. More details to follow soon.”

Kaduna airport sources said the crash occurred during a heavy rain. General Attahiru was the 26th indigenous Chief of Army Staff and was in office for three months and 26 days.

His was the second shortest stint as army chief after the three months stewardship of Lieutenant General Aliyu Gusau between September and November 1993.

The shortest stint before him in the democratic era was General Andrew Azazi who served for 11 months before he was promoted to the post of the Chief of Defence Staff.

General Attahiru was born on 10 August, 1966 in Doka in Kaduna North Local Government Area of Kaduna State. He was a graduate of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji and the Nigerian Army School of Infantry. He commenced cadets training in January 1984 and was commissioned into the rank of Second Lieutenant in December 1986 as an Infantry Officer.

He held a Masters degree in Strategic Management and Policy Studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy.

He also obtained Masters of Science in Human Resources Management and Development from Salford University in the United Kingdom and Graduate Diploma in International Studies from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. General Attahiru held several appointments on the staff, instructional and in command during his military career. He had a tour of duty with the United Nations in Sierra Leone as a Military Observer, where he facilitated United Kingdom military engagement, Operation BARASS in September 2000.

He was an Operation Officer and later Company Commander in NIBATT 19 ECOMOG Operations in Liberia. Prominent among his appointments while rising through the ranks are Commanding Officer, 146 Battalion Nigerian Army (Operation HARMONY IV) in the Bakassi Peninsula; Commander 13 Brigade Nigerian Army (Operation PULO SHIELD); General Officer Commanding, 82 Division Nigerian Army.

He was one time Theatre Commander Operation LAFIYA DOLE (the counter-terrorism and counter insurgency outfit in the North East). It is on record that he brought relative stability to the region with the surrender of several Boko Haram combatants.

As a staff officer, he was unit Adjutant, 7 Battalion Nigerian Army, Serti, Chief of Staff, 1 Brigade Nigerian Army Sokoto, General Staff Officer Grade 1 Training/Operations and as well as Staff Duties/Plans at Headquarters 1, 2 and 81 Divisions of the Nigerian Army.

He was Deputy Director Military Secretary 2 at the AHQ MS (A) and one-time Director Army Public Relations and spokesperson of the Nigerian Army.

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